interview with david banner

exclusive feature
Stephanie Joy Tisdale
{Brooklyn, NY}


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Liberator Magazine: Hello. How are you?

David Banner: I’m better than I’ve ever been in my whole entire life.

Liberator Magazine: Walking With Gods (watch below) begins with references to Ancient Kemet, which we're introduced to through Akhet Heru, as well as the Akan symbol Gye Nyame. What aspects of these traditions are most valuable for Alex Light's journey?

David Banner: What we did was we took a synthesis...if you look at the makeup of his homeland and you look at some of the symbols...a lot of people looked at the Kemetic stuff that they saw. But its actually a synthesis of a lot of different parts of Africa. What we wanted to do was just sort of make a healthy synthesis so that people who were into those different areas would find some kinship with it.

One of the plans that I have--I don’t want to let too much out of the bag but--is once Walking with Gods becomes really big, I want to create a hyperlink to anything that you see on there, so that you can dive into the internet and figure out what that is and then could sync the symbols, and you know “what does this symbol mean?”

I hired some different friends of mine who are doctors at different colleges and institutions to just take different symbols and that aspect of maybe Egyptian culture or some of the things that came from Timbuktu and all these different places, all these different things that we put into it.

You know that kids, of whatever color, can figure out and really respect different aspects of African culture.

Liberator Magazine: You have Dr. Joy Degruy and Bill Duke among the special consultants for the series. I was curious to know what kind of advice maybe Bill Duke gave you as a director, and Dr. Degruy, with her work on the Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome, just curious to know what their influence was on your work and how you got things done?

David Banner: Bill Duke and my mentor, Dr. David Moody, were real big reasons why I made Walking With Gods. Bill Duke challenged me, he said: “Get off your ass!” He said: “Make this in a month. Stop playing. If it’s something that you really want to do, do it! I’m gonna give you a month let me see what you gonna do!” Bill Duke was also the one who showed me how to chop the episodes up to keep people excited. Dr. Joy Degruy is one of my mentors as it pertains to the psychological effects of what has happened to Black people especially as it pertains to the TransAtlantic Slave trade, as it pertains to what we've gone through just in slavery period. She also was the one that helped me carve out like...every episode has an underlying meaning. Whether its Black Love, whether its Believing in Self. There’s these little small things that maybe people will see and maybe they won’t. Just about everything has a meaning and she was the one who helped me carve out those meanings.

Liberator Magazine: What do you hope for people to gain from Walking With Gods—we know they'll be many more episodes and much more to come about—but what do you want people to gain from these episodes?

David Banner: That's not really my place. Maybe what Walking With Gods is is much bigger than me. I’ve noticed this: that sometimes God makes us a conduit and if we just be still and maybe its bigger than us. Different things mean different things to different people. Actually, Erykah Badu taught me that.

She was like “Stop trying to explain everything. Maybe its bigger than you. Let people interpret, and let it be personal to them.” Only thing that I have to do is make sure its coming from a good place. Make sure that the information is correct. And it will stand on its own. So I’m just hoping that people watch it and that people enjoy it. Because the thing that I promised myself: when people see David Banner, I just want people to know that its the best that I can possibly do. That people are going to get something quality, that they’re going to get something that they can be proud of. That's the thing that makes me the most proud. Like some people get mad when somebody say stuff like “Aw man it was exciting!” when they put all this deep stuff in it. I just want it to be dope. And of course I have some things that I want people to get from it. But that ain’t your place, you know, you just present it to people and hopefully the God inside of them will move them in the direction because God may have something different for that individual when they see it. Just let it work.

You got to think about it, we are not great filters [laughs]. We have so many things—that’s one thing that Dr. Degruy teaches me is that—Black folks done went through so much, man we got a lot of anger so you know when the God inside of us speaking a lot of times when it comes to our filters its so distorted. So, just allow it to be. I’m just thankful to be able know for God to put me in the..think about this...imagine how God is for God to give you the ability to think something and then people are calling me about it. This is something that I paid for with my money, or the money that was given through 2M1, and the money I donated—because I put a lot of money into it myself. But, to be able to think of something and for other groups of people to help you with a vision that you have and for it to be manifested and people like it. I had, I don’t remember the numbers, it was like 300 likes and only 1 dislike, just one--and you know how people are on the Internet. Not that that matters to me at all but that was a sign to me like wow…people are gravitating to this. I mean gangstas, I mean teachers, I mean Jackson State called me and they want to put it on T.V. Teachers are telling me that their kids are writing papers about it. I had one dude do a whole YouTube segment about it, you know...a little young guy...telling me that I was his new hero. And that’s a lot of pressure but for you to have a thought, and for that thought to influence or spark other people is amazing.

Liberator Magazine: Yeah it is. Wow that's amazing. You mentioned the 2M1 Movement. And you seem to have a strong desire to remain an independent artist. How have you been able to balance mainstream work as an actor and music artist, with independent projects like the 2M1 Movement and Walking With Gods? Especially with your new album, how are you able to like, you know, keep everything balanced?

David Banner: Just prayer, meditation, and taking one thing at a time. Mr. David Moody, my mentor, taught me that. He told me one of my problems is that I do too much all the time. Honestly, as much as it may seem, I’m working about 70% less than I used to and getting more accomplished because I’m doing one thing at a time, concentrating fully on one thing at a time. It’s funny I wanted to write about this--and I’m going to tell you before I write about it--one of the worst things that happened to America recently (I mean not as bad as something exploding but…) something that happened to the minds of Americans is in the 90's this big thing of multitasking. That’s the reason why people don’t have great memories, we’re trying to do too much. Just do one thing, do it great, finish it, and move on. Instead of tidbitting and never really completing one thing great. That was one of my problems as a rapper. When I would get close to being respected as a lyricist, then I would go produce [Lil] Wayne’s album or go and produce T.I.’s album. Then right there when I was close to being on that level of a super producer, then I’ll go and do a movie. Instead of staying in one place. Like Tupac did, Tupac became one of the best rappers ever. He really wanted to be an actor, then the acting came to him by him totally doing what he was supposed to do to do first.. I told her to give you 10 more minutes too.. I am enjoying this interview.

Liberator Magazine: Oh wow that's awesome, thank you so much! We really appreciate that. Speaking of Tupac, that's actually a great segue because on "Sex, Drugs and Video Games" you feature everyone from Big K.R.I.T. to A$AP Rocky, Ras Kass, and Lil Wayne. You've blended a wide spectrum of artists on the album, independently, which is pretty groundbreaking. What do you want people to hear when they're listening to the album? Was there a particular purpose around doing that, bringing all these people together? What was it about?

David Banner: None of that. I don’t plan on ever doing the old David Banner again. I’m metamorphosing right now, I’m turning into a different being...I don’t even know what that’s gonna be. I’m actually excited to see what I’m going to be as a rapper now. I always give the example of Andre 3000, when he made his big change, he just totally stopped doing that. I know as a fan, even though I’ve moved on, I still would love to hear an old Andre verse. So instead of keeping all that stuff together, I just wanted to give it all to the, here. Instead of just stop doing certain things altogether, I said I want to find a way to package it. And if you really listen to that album, it wasn't really the music, it was the interludes. Because, even some of those songs I wasn't really comfortable with putting out so what I did...I’ll give you an example. I did one interlude where I had a girl ask me “David Banner, would you let somebody call your mother or daughter a bitch?” I said, “No.” Then she said, “Then why would you call somebody else’s mother or daughter a ‘bitch’?” “Sex, Drugs, and Video Games” and then I go into a song talking about “bitches.” Sort of talking to myself. Where as I normally wouldn't put that album out...that song out, but that was sort of a segue into making people think like: “Damn, he just said that? Aww damn that’s dope! Why do we do that?”

And I think we don’t talk enough as Black people. Black people, we assume that everybody is like us and that they understand. But that, I wanted to put that in the people’s mind as they go into a certain song, you know? So, I just wanted to give all of that to the people, who are the old David Banner fans, so that they can never say...Well, shit is was free. I gave it to you, here it go.

And I don’t believe in free. I believe that’s how we have given our music and our talent away.

I want to tell you something really quick. I haven’t said this to anybody. I want to say it, but you’ll be the first person that I've said it to. I want to tell you something that America has done and nobody, to me, has peeped it out.

What type of music is selling the least right now (I mean the big genres of music), or has been hit the hardest by this so-called recession? Rap music and R &B music right? What do the most children want to do right now?

Liberator Magazine: Rap and R&B

David Banner: [Laughs] And then what they did was, right now...the Internet is what’s popping, you know...besides medicine and all the oil and all the super big things. So, we have convinced everybody to put everything online when Black people are not even in that sector. So whereas we had started getting our own record stores and all of this kind of stuff, as soon as we were close to controlling our images—what 2M1 is about—they now threw everything online, made everybody concentrate on being rappers, while they are into tech...and they’re out there in Silicon Valley getting real money and real control. And everybody wanting to be rappers and don’t even see that rapping not even selling no more. So you got all these kids spending all of this time and being distracted on trying to rap, when there’s three rappers out here making money right now--I mean real money. The rest of them are not out here rapping. So I peeped it, I was like damn...that’s real chess. That’s real chess.

You don’t have kids focusing on computers, or building computers, or finance. Everybody is wanting to rap when they don’t see there is no money in it. I said it in one of my new songs, I said “People say I’m selfish, well rap records don’t sell.” Why would I start a record label, put all of my money and effort and time in a record label, when there is no return--so you don’t yield any return? But you call me selfish. No, that would actually be me paying attention.

Liberator Magazine: Wow, that's really insightful and its true, it's definitely something to think about. So you're basically saying that all of the visibility on the Internet is kind of driving young people to associate music with success? So that then the idea that you're going to become a rapper and become famous isn't realistic?

David Banner: It’s realistic but you have to do it yourself. See the thing is, the shift in the economy has been compensated by me going directly to the fans. So that 87% that the label used to take is now cut out. Like, I had a conversation with another rapper and he said “Man, how can you give your albums out for a dollar?” And then I turned around and tell him: “When you were on a major label how much were you getting?” He said “19 Cents.” I said, “I’m getting a $1!” [Laughs]

But people don’t put it on dad taught me that. My dad said, “If you notice what successful people do, they’re not emotional. They put it on paper...put it on a piece of paper and it’ll take all the emotion away.” You can still be it, just control it yourself.

You know, one of the saddest things to me as an entertainer is that America was based on taking advantage of certain races of people. And if you look at rap music, rap music has started echoing the sentiments that America has about Black people. I was watching Django and DiCaprio’s character was fighting all the Black people for entertainment, it reminded me so much of the rap game. Because that’s what rap really depicts.

If you selling dope..well who ya’ll really talking about selling dope to? You not selling no dope to white folk. So what you talking about is really selling dope to your own people. When you dissing folks, you ain't dissing no white rappers, you only dissing Black folks. So what we are is entertainment for other people to watch us mutilate and ridicule ourselves and our own culture, for other people’s entertainment--is really what it is. And that’s disheartening to me.

You pimping, but you only pimping one type of women. Like if you gonna pimp, pimp everybody. If you gonna sell dope, sell dope to everybody. But that’s one of the unspoken rules on the streets: don’t sell no dope to no white folk. So in the saying that, I would respect people more if you gonna murder, murder everybody. But usually, when we talk about murder, we only talking about murdering niggas and that’s disheartening.

Liberator Magazine: Yea it is. Wow, so with that being said--and even hearing about everything that you're saying--kind of leads me to ask about your spiritual journey. Going through your metamorphosis and the things you've talking about with that. Sometimes people look at that and say, "Oh you're changing, you're growing" but that's what we're all here on earth to do. I'm just curious to know what's been your inspiration for changing and growing and developing? If you could just elaborate further on how that's happened: the process.

David Banner: Pain and suffering, Sweety! [Laughs]

God has a way of making us suffer when we’re not in line. Think about everything naturally. I always tell of my friends--he’s from England, he’s from Manchester--I go to him for advice a lot, he never gives me an answer. He always asks me, “How do you feel?” like “How do you feel?”

When you think about my metamorphosis as it pertains to rap, I would go out on stage and it didn't feel right any more. I think the stuff that I used to do, I needed to do it for that time. It was all purposeful. I used to get mad at myself now that I know what I know, like how could I do that. No, that’s what you were supposed to do. Because, if it were not for that, you wouldn't be here. You wouldn't be forced to grow. You understand? So, if it don’t feel right, it’s not right. If you not eating right, and you constantly not eating right what happens? You get a stomach ache, right?

Pain. So like, just certain things happened that were very painful.

And at one point in my life I think if I wouldn't have changed, I would've died: literally.

So baby, if you really want to was times I couldn't sleep. So it was like...really God just sort of said “Okay, if you don’t want to listen”--because you know we hard-headed--”I’ll sit your ass over here in the corner” [Laughs]. I guess that’s what they mean by “your arms too short to box with God!” [Laughs]. “You keep swinging, I got something for your ass!” [Laughs].

The thing that I always want people to know is that the David Banner that everybody knew is still here. He’s still here, he’s still inside: I battle with him everyday. That’s one of the things that I hope when people see my new lifestyle, the way that I eat and that I train, and they think that the old David Banner is totally gone. He’s not, I fight with him all the time. And actually, he’s very important because at the end of the day if I need to—excuse me—put my foot in somebody’s ass...that’s still here. I call it a utility belt, God gave us a utility belt. You know like some women look at being raped or some of the things bad that have happened… and maybe that—I’m not saying if its right or wrong—but sometimes things happen to us so we can be the leader for other people so they won’t have to go through it. Or so they’ll know what to do when things happen. Like certain things happen that we think is bad, but sometimes it was meant to happen so you can shoulder the load for other people. And imagine you making that sacrifice so millions of other people won’t have to?

Imagine me going through the stuff that I went through, coming from Mississippi—and the pain that we went through as a race of people—so that I can explain that to the world so that maybe it won’t happen to other people. Yea, it was painful for me but maybe God put that on me for a reason. My uncle always tell me, I stopped saying “Why Me?” and say “Why not me?” But let me tell you one of my prayers though, I pray to God sometimes...I tell him—I been through some things, especially mentally, that I never want to go through—but my prayer to God is that I don’t go through it unless its necessary for me to grow as much as I grew from everyone of..all of the bad situations I've been through is when I've had my greatest levels of growth. If you sit down and really try to figure out what it’s for...I hope I’m answering your question.

Liberator Magazine: You are and its very powerful and very inspiring. It sounds so centered and grounded. And we truly appreciate...I know I appreciate what you're saying, it's very valuable.

David Banner: So listen, this is very important to me. At the end of the day, if people think what I’m doing is important, they have to go and contribute at Because at the end of the day, if we don’t pay, it don’t matter. I was telling somebody, you know they were talking about the title, Walking With Gods. And I was telling them, its hard for Black people to comprehend who they really are ask people to go from beggars to gods, I understand that jump because its hard for me every day. But we’re not beggars. You know what I’m saying? We have to stop expecting and thinking that life is free: ain't nothing in this life free. One of my best friends, her father always says “Free is much too expensive” because you always end up having to pay. All this free music, now all these people wanting to be rappers, you gonna have to pay for that free music because you won’t have a career. You wonder why your favorite artist is going off and doing movies and ain't making music no more. Hey, because of all that free music! You have to pay for everything, I don’t want nothing free! You always have to pay for it and the price is usually waaay too much.

Liberator Magazine: So we want people to go to, go to the website and make sure they show their support. Download the album and make sure they're watching Walking With Gods and all of that.

David Banner: I’ll give you an example. I had somebody tell me one time: “Why should I give you a $1 for this album?” I was like “Dude, you got Asap Rocky, Chris Brown on the album (two times), Bun B, Nipsey Hustle, Raheem Devaughn...and you mean to tell me that you don’t want to pay a $1?”

That’s what we've been reduced to...because we don’t see worth in ourselves. You know, that's what Walking With Gods is about. Akhet’s kryptonite is him not believing in himself, him not believing in his own power. Imagine if I would've listened to what people said, because I was from Mississippi, that I couldn't do it. Imagine if I listened to them instead of that voice that God put in me.

Liberator Magazine: Awesome, thank you so much. I really really appreciate it, we appreciate your time. We really appreciate it and wishing you the best with everything that you're doing. You're insight, your vision, it's been really inspiring and very powerful. Thank you so much for what you're doing and sharing your life. I think more than anything else that's what people will take away from this.

David Banner: Last thing that I want you to do for me is… tell people that the thing that means the most to me is...not just them retweeting it and them watching it themselves. If they really like the movement, and they like what I’m doing, I would ask them to tell one other person to promise that they’ll watch it. And then ask them to ask somebody else to watch it. That’s how Walking With Gods has grown, we had 20,000 views in less than a week. And I purposefully didn't do any major PR because I want the people who supported it to feel like its something. Because think about it: when something is pressed on you from a massive perspective, then you just look at it and then throw it away because you feel like everybody is seeing it, so it ain't that important. Imagine those things that you find, imagine those treasures. I even set it up where people couldn't view it on their phones, on purpose. I want people to fight for it. I mean, I may lose a lot of people from doing that but the people that do go on that journey...once they find it, then they’re with you forever. We’re creating a Star Wars, something that’s going to be as great or greater because people have gone through that journey. People will stand outside for that journey that you take them on. Just ask people to go on this journey. You know, I always ask people—they ask me to follow them on twitter—and I always answer them “I don’t know where you taking me...I don’t know if I want to follow your ass!” [Laughs]

Oh boy! I appreciate you, okay?

Liberator Magazine: Thank you so much. I appreciate you as well. Thank you! -END-

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... Cultivare, cultiva terra, arable land, colere, colō; worship, protect, cultivate. As a regular gift to our $2400+/biennium members, Live From Planet Earth extends a special unlimited invitation to our family's homestead/farm/estate in Jamaica. Sign-up by clicking your membership contribution amount below. Live From Planet Earth is a hands-on, cooperative meditation — on self-sustaining, tropical, organic human being and development — rooting and producing through your generous, reparative, faithful contributions. Please support by helping us fill this measure little by little, slowly but surely: Annual ($36), ($2400), ($6000); Monthly ($3), ($5), ($10), ($25), ($30), ($40), ($60), ($70), ($80), ($90), ($130), ($200), ($500), ($1000).